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A la Carte: Sandwiches are beautiful

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By Rachel Hergett EBS COLUMNIST

“Sandwiches are beautiful.

Sandwiches are fine. 

I like sandwiches.

I eat them all the time.”

Don’t we all?

This is the opening of “Sandwiches,” a song by Fred Penner, another delightful Fred (a la Mr. Rogers) who entertained and educated children in the ’90s. My mom took me to see Penner at the Willson Auditorium in Bozeman, where the crowd hooted and hollered over his hit “The Cat Came Back.” This was my childhood. 

Even if Penner’s song doesn’t play in your head every time you eat one, it’s a safe bet you’ve had some form of sandwich in recent memory. Defining that form can generate strong opinions, so I won’t step into the “Is a hotdog a sandwich?” debate. What comprises a sandwich is completely up to you. Like us, there is beauty in the variety. 

I tend to make sandwiches of whatever is on my plate, provided the spread includes a bread—or roll-type thing. At my mom’s house outside of Bozeman, that’s Brazilian cheese puffs, little glorious balls of dough and cheese that she learned to make when she went gluten-free. Now she has to make a double batch any time she has people over for dinner. I’ve made cheese puff sandwiches with holiday turkey or prime rib, or at the last family dinner, simply mashed potatoes.

Cakes and cupcakes can also become sandwiches. Split the cake in half, or the cupcake between the base and the curved dome, and put the bottom on top if you don’t want frosting fingers. It also helps distribute the frosting between bites. 

There are too many mouth-watering sandwiches to write about in one column. Instead, I’ll tell you about the sandwich I make for myself most often, which comes from the streets of southern Spain. 

A decade or so ago, my rafting buddy and dear friend Maxwell Dunn was living in Seville, teaching and continuing his architecture studies after graduating from Montana State University. In the week I took up residence in his living room, Max showed me the sights, sounds and tastes of one of his favorite cities. We ate lots of sandwiches.

In Spain, a small tapas-friendly sandwich on a little baguette-type roll is called a montadito. There’s even a chain called “100 Montaditos” with restaurants around the country. We ate there because we were broke and it was cheap (1 Euro sandwiches and beers or wine/soda drinks on Wednesdays). But it was also pretty great. 

Better though, is the montadito ever-present in the hands of breakfast patrons in street-side cafes. It’s the Spanish version of a ham sandwich, with the sweetness of summer tomatoes cut with the tang of a good olive oil and salty cured ham.

Making one is simple:

The bread is best when it has a crispy crust and airy insides. No need to be precious with them in the cutting though, because you’re going to make those insides a gooey mess. Cut the bread and cut a tomato in half. With half the tomato in your hand, rub and squeeze those delicious guts into that bread. Do both sides. Use as much tomato as you want. Then drizzle the bread with olive oil. We’re near the Mediterranean, after all. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Now add some jamón… that’s cured ham. Serrano is my go-to, but the main difference between it, iberico and prosciutto is the breed of pig. Fold a couple thin slices over the bottom piece of the baguette. Close it up. Enjoy!

This sandwich is great for all meals of the day and can be modified to your liking. Change up the ham or add an egg. Do sandwiches your way. 

I’ve got to go make myself a sandwich, so I’ll wrap this up with one more line from Penner’s ode: “I will not ask a favor and I will not ask a fee, but if you have yourself a sandwich, won’t you give a bite to me?”

Rachel Hergett is a foodie and cook from Montana. She is arts editor emeritus at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and has written for publications such as Food Network Magazine and Montana Quarterly. Rachel is also the host of the Magic Monday Show on KGLT-FM and teaches at Montana State University. 

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